CORNING, New York — Corning Incorporated is not exactly a household name. It may be one of the world leaders in specialty glass and ceramics, but the average person does not pay a great deal of attention to the properties of glass even though it is an integral part of everyday life.
However, Corning’s latest development could lead to worldwide changes and saving lives. The company’s Gorilla Glass, currently geared toward touchscreen devices, is reportedly able to fight off 99.9 percent of certain germs, as well as bacteria and fungi.
The product is manufactured using ionic silver, a substance long used for its ability to ward off bacteria and fungi.
Though ionic silver is typically expensive, Gorilla Glass is produced by infusing the substance directly with glass. It is estimated that by using this technique the company only spends 50 cents on raw material per smartphone screen. Other companies had already released similarly acting films that could be placed over touchscreens, but Gorilla Glass is the first actual glass of its kind.
As the British Broadcasting Company’s (BBC) article points out, touchscreens are not particularly dangerous microbial attractions unless used by numerous individuals. However, the important possible use of Gorilla Glass is not with touchscreen devices, but rather in hospitals and healthcare facilities, a market the company has already acknowledged it will tap.
Cleanliness in hospitals and healthcare facilities is a well-known necessity that faces numerous obstacles. Some locations lack the resources or equipment to properly sterilize. Other locations are overwhelmed by patients and lack time, or individuals, to adequately clean. There are also those areas that simply do not heed or concur with the importance of proper hygienic conditions.
The consequences of unclean spaces can be costly and even deadly.
A nosocomial infection, or hospital-acquired infection, is defined by the American Public Health Association as “an infection acquired in hospital by a patient who was admitted for a reason other than that infection.” According to a World Health Organization (WHO) study of 14 countries, nearly 1 in 10 hospital patients had a nosocomial infection. Such infections are one of the leading causes of hospital deaths worldwide, and probably one of the leading costs.
Increased hospital stays because of nosocomial infections ranged from eight to twenty days, plus the added expenses of laboratory tests, isolation requirements and general extra work.
Strategies to increase healthcare cleanliness is gaining momentum around the world.
The WHO published a 72-page Prevention of Hospital-Acquired Infections in 2002 that acts as a step-by-step guide to recognizing, preventing and treating nosocomial infections, as well as understanding their larger impact. Another strategy is the widely distributed Surgical Safety Checklist that includes boxes that are to be checked off as each step is completed or confirmed.
These measures are not limited to developing countries or underprivileged areas.
A 2012 article for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation exposed the hygienic problems faced by the country often touted for its excellent healthcare system. Instead of praising the system, the article details a study undertaken in 11 hospitals in Ontario and British Columbia, Canada in which an ultra-violet gel was applied to basic parts of the facilities including light switches, railings and door handles. Despite the constant use of the targeted areas, the team found that most of the gel remained more than 24 hours later.
While glass may not seem like a high-priority area to disinfect, it is a component similar to door handles and railings. Windows into rooms are pressed against, breathed on and handled throughout the day, transferring bacteria, fungi or germs from one person to the next. In healthcare facilities where people at increased risk of infection are staying, it is essential for the utmost sterilization to be maintained. Gorilla Glass could potentially provide some security that cleanliness is being maintained. Having glass that could prevent microbes from spreading on itself would allow other areas to be focused on.
– Katey Baker-Smith